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Amid shortage, Utah hospitals calling for public donation of crutches, walkers, canes

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 25, 2021

Photographee.eu - stock.adobe.co

Hospitals in Utah are asking for public donations of crutches and other mobility equipment due to supply chain shortages on these items.

Hospitals in Utah are in critical need of aluminum crutches, canes, walkers and nonmotorized wheelchairs, and officials are turning to the public for help.

Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Healthcare, the Utah Hospital Association and Steward Health Care has launched the LeanOnUtah donation drive aimed at collecting the gently used equipment that might be sitting around in Utahns’ closets, garages or attics.

Over the next three Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., items can be dropped off at several locations throughout the state.

“We are in desperate need of your canes, walkers, wheelchairs and crutches in order to provide patients with the care they need,” said Dr. Joey Kamerath, senior medical director for rehabilitation at Intermountain Healthcare. “Here at Intermountain, we go through 1,800 pair of crutches every single month, yet unfortunately our supply chain has run completely dry on this equipment.”

Part of the issue, Kamerath said, is the global shortage of aluminum, but what makes things even more complex is the fact that raw and fabrication materials are also in shortage and it’s not known when this equipment will be available. While hospitals haven’t completely run out of the equipment yet, officials say they want to get ahead of the situation before it becomes a crisis.

“I’ve never seen a shortage of crutches this significant, and normally it’s an afterthought because they’re always so readily available,” Kamerath said. “My biggest worry now is someone will have a broken leg or stroke and we won’t be able to send them home with the walking assist devise they need.”

Dr. Darrel Brodke, chairman of the department of orthopedics at U of U Health, said this time of year is always busy with orthopedic surgeries due to skiing accidents and other sports-related activities.

“Surgery of the hip, knee, broken ankle or leg really is the first stage of healing,” he said. “The next period of time is about allowing the body to heal, which often requires not putting your full body weight down. So the uses of crutches, canes, wheelchairs and walkers all play a key role in keeping excessive force to come down on the limb, but also allow them to be up and mobile and moving around. They play an immense role in the patient’s healing process.”

Martha Gamble, chief nursing officer for Jordan Valley Medical Center, said the shortage is affecting hospitals across the nation. Utah, she said, is by far the most giving state and she’s confident the state will lead the nation in this charitable cause. She suggested volunteer youth organizations, high school students, community members and church groups could be a great asset in collecting the equipment.

Once collected, caregivers will sanitize and inspect the devises for safety before being sent to hospitals for use. They will then be given to patients with a note letting them know it was generously donated by someone in the community. All devices that can’t be repaired will be properly recycled. Wooden canes cannot be accepted because they cannot be properly sanitized.

“I have been so impressed by the spirit of community in this state and hopeful that our friends and neighbors can rally to solve this unique health care need,” Brodke said. “In coming days, we will have surgical patients or emergency department patients with a broken leg who may be discharged without crutches unless we can find creative solutions like this community drive.”

For more information, visit leanonutah.com. Volunteers are also being asked to help sort and sanitize the donated items. To sign up, go to justserve.org.

Donation Dates and Times

Donations can be made on the following dates between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.:

  • Saturday, Oct. 30
  • Saturday, Nov. 6
  • Saturday, Nov. 13

Donation Locations

Logan Regional Hospital

500 E. 1400 North, Logan

Intermountain Homecare Ogden

3776 Wall Ave., South Ogden

Intermountain Medical Center

5169 S. Cottonwood St., Murray

Utah Valley Hospital

1034 N. 500 West, Provo

St. George Regional Hospital

1380 E. Medical Center Drive, St. George

Davis Hospital

1600 W. Antelope Drive, Layton

Jordan Valley West

3460 S. 1400 West, West Valley City

Jordan Valley Medical Center

3580 W. 9000 South, South Jordan,

Mountain Point Medical Center

3000 Triumph Blvd., Lehi


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